When Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale was published in 1953, there were a few indications that this novel had given birth to a beloved character. Fleming’s exploration of the question of ‘good-vs-evil’ and his insights into the fascinating world of espionage captured readers’ imaginations, as did the luxurious lifestyle of his superspy lead character. His name? As he’d be all too keen to tell you himself, it is, of course, Bond – James Bond.
With No Time to Die hitting cinemas in November 2020, Bond will have appeared in some form of media in a staggering eight different decades. While the technology at Bond’s disposal has evolved over the years, and his face has changed a few times in the movie franchise, it is remarkable how many of the things introduced in Fleming’s 1953 novel have stayed consistent.
That is particularly true when it comes to 007’s love of luxury. Here are three of Bond’s passions that continue to define the character today.
The fast cars
James Bond’s license to kill is one of the defining features of both the book and film series. However, you could argue that this is not even the most important license that Bond owns; what about his license to drive? Sure, it may not be as remarkable as a license to kill, but Bond’s love of cars (and fast ones at that) is central to many of the action sequences that take place on the page and the screen.
The Aston Martin DB5 is arguably Bond’s most famous automobile. Variations of this iconic vehicle have appeared in several movies, including Casino Royale. However, Bond drove something else in the original novel version of Casino Royale. Fleming gave Bond a 1933 Bentley convertible in the spy’s literary debut, a car that boasted a 4.5-liter engine and an Amherst Villiers supercharger.
While it no longer screams luxury like an Aston Martin, this Bentley would have been the envy of all other spies when Fleming’s book was published. Fleming ended up converting Bond to Aston Martin a few years later in response to a fan suggestion. Still, Casino Royale established Bond’s love of anything luxurious that moves at incredible speed. Working on his car was one of Bond’s favorite hobbies, and that love of high-class cars has endured throughout the movie series.
The classy card games
While there would be a certain appeal to watching Bond tell Le Chiffre to “go fish” or to witness them do battle in a deadly game of snap, neither of those card games would have quite provided the mix of strategy and glamour required for Casino Royale. As anyone who watched the 2005 movie can tell you, there’s one card game that Bond loves more than any other: poker. Except that wasn’t the case in Fleming’s novel.
In the character’s first appearance, Bond was more of a baccarat specialist. The creative team behind the 2006 movie decided to deviate from Fleming’s source material and switch the action to poker, suggesting that the casual filmgoers would be more familiar with the rules of poker rather than baccarat. This is because baccarat is traditionally perceived as a game that rich people play, but that your average card game aficionado may not necessarily understand.
In pop culture, baccarat is commonly portrayed as a game of kings, and Fleming’s novel is no different. This perception has been challenged by the rise of online casinos, which, by presenting multiple card games on one page, have championed the idea that baccarat is a card game that is as approachable as blackjack or poker. The decision to switch the cinematic action from baccarat to poker reflects the idea that baccarat is still a little bit mysterious, which only heightens its sense of luxury. No wonder Bond loved it so much in Fleming’s book.
The elegant drinks
In both the novels and the movies, we regularly find Bond with a glass in his hand, a glass usually full of something expensive. 007 is a keen drinker of champagne, while a scotch & soda is his usual tipple of choice in Fleming’s novels. In the movies, Bond is most associated with the vodka martini, and he famously has zero preference about how you prepare said drink for him.
When it comes to shaking and stirring, it’s another drink that got the ball rolling for Bond. In Casino Royale, Fleming gives us an insight into Bond’s aspirations to be a mixologist by allowing 007 to invent a new form of dry martini called the Vesper. Bond is clear in his instructions to the bartender on how to make a Vesper: three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet, shake well, then serve ice-cold in a champagne goblet with lemon peel.
Bond later names the cocktail ‘Vesper’ after his romantic interest in Casino Royale. You’d think the Vesper, a drink that Bond created, would become his definitive beverage, but he only orders it once in the novels. He also indulges in a Vesper in the cinematic Casino Royale, but his shaken (not stirred) vodka martini has usurped the Vesper as the classic Bond drink.
This fits with the rest of the luxurious lifestyle that Bond enjoys in Fleming’s 1953 book. Like his love of Bentleys and baccarat, his love of the Vesper didn’t last too far beyond that debut literary appearance. Bond’s specific tastes evolved, but his luxurious inclinations that Fleming set up in Casino Royale have stayed with him throughout his life. No matter what happens to Bond in the future, you can be sure that 007 will always appreciate cars, cards, and cocktails.